Lauri Pihkala

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameLauri•Pihkala (Gummerus-)
Used nameLauri•Pihkala
Born5 January 1888 in Pihtipudas, Keski-Suomi (FIN)
Died20 May 1981 in Helsinki, Uusimaa (FIN)
Measurements179 cm / 79 kg
AffiliationsHKV, Helsinki (FIN)
NOC Finland


Lauri Pihkala was a champion track and field athlete, an influential sports coach and writer, and the inventor of pesäpallo, the Finnish variant of baseball. Pihkala set multiple national records on the track and represented Finland at two Olympic Games.

At the 1908 London Olympics Pihkala competed in the high jump, finishing in joint-16th place with 1.67 metres, and the discus, where the distance of his throw was not recorded. He was also scheduled to take part in the 400 metres, pole vault, and shot put, but did not start in those events. After the London Olympics, Pihkala switched his focus to the track, going on to win several national titles in the 200, 400, and 800 metres. His first Finnish title came in 1910 with victory in the 400 metres in a time of 52 seconds. Pihkala performed the triple in 1911 and 1912 when he won the 200, 400, and 800 metres in each year. As well as his national titles, Pihkala improved the Finnish record for the 400 metres on three occasions. He ran in the 800 metres at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, but did not finish in his heat. Pihkala was also scheduled to run in the 400 metres in Stockholm but did not start the race.

Pihkala made two trips to the United States, the first in 1908, and the second from 1912 to 1913, where he became familiar with modern coaching techniques. He published a guide to sports coaching and worked as an advisor to the Sports Association of the Kingdom of Finland. As a full-time coach, Pihkala toured Finland to give presentations, founded training clubs, and developed a badge system on sporting performance limits to encourage young people.

Following Pihkala’s second visit to the United States he translated a book on baseball into Finnish. He believed that the American game would be too difficult to play in Finland, so he began to invent a variation of the sport. In the early 1920s pesäpallo was born, which drew elements not just from baseball, but from the Swedish bat-and-ball game brännboll, rounders, and the Russian bat-and-ball game lapta. Pesäpallo was played as a demonstration sport at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics by two Finnish teams representing the Finnish Baseball League and the Workers’ Athletic Federation.

Personal Bests: 800 – 1:58.1 (1911); HJ – 1.75 (1909); DT – 31.40 (1906).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1908 Summer Olympics Athletics FIN Lauri Pihkala
400 metres, Men (Olympic) DNS
High Jump, Men (Olympic) =16
Pole Vault, Men (Olympic) DNS
Shot Put, Men (Olympic) DNS
Discus Throw, Men (Olympic) AC
1912 Summer Olympics Athletics FIN Lauri Pihkala
400 metres, Men (Olympic) DNS
800 metres, Men (Olympic) AC h9 r1/3